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Avalanche buries several villages in Papua New Guinea

A devastating landslide has occurred in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Six villages have been buried – there could be many deaths. Rescue teams are struggling to reach the area.

A massive landslide has buried several villages in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Many people were apparently killed. The accident occurred in the remote province of Enga, which lies around 600 kilometers northwest of the capital Port Moresby.

The local governor, Peter Ipatas, initially spoke of “deaths and material damage.” He later said that “more than six villages” were affected and described the incident as an “unprecedented natural disaster” that had caused “significant damage.”

Reports of “catastrophic destruction”

According to local reports, the villagers were caught in their sleep by the avalanche. Images from the scene showed a large mass of rock and earth breaking out of the densely vegetated Mount Mungalo. The remains of many corrugated iron huts could be seen at the foot of the landslide.

Videos on social media showed locals recovering buried bodies. The local news site JB143 PNG spoke of “catastrophic destruction” on Facebook. It is not yet certain how many people were buried.

Accident site is difficult to access

“It looks like more than 100 houses were buried. It is not yet known how many people were in these houses,” the chairman of the local community development association, Vincent Pyati, told AFP news agency.

A representative of the Papua New Guinea Red Cross estimated the number of injured and dead at between 100 and 500. However, she is still trying to “get a clearer picture of the situation.” The site of the landslide is very remote and it could take up to two days for rescue workers and relief supplies to reach the area, she explained.

Eyewitnesses and residents also believe that more than 100 people died, as reported by the Australian broadcaster ABC. According to the New Zealand broadcaster RNZ, up to 3,000 people lived in the area.

Gold mining town of Porgera not accessible

A crisis team made up of medical personnel, soldiers, police officers and members of UN organizations was sent to the area. Australia's government offered Papua New Guinea assistance. “The loss of life and destruction is devastating,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong wrote on X. “As a friend and partner, Australia stands ready to assist in the relief and rescue efforts.”

According to media reports, the gold mining town of Porgera has also been affected by the landslide. Since a connecting road is blocked, it is unclear how the town can be supplied with goods and fuel.

Rainfall and Floods

Papua New Guinea is located in the southwestern Pacific, south of the equator, and is often affected by heavy rain. This year there have been intense rains and floods. In March, at least 23 people were killed in a landslide in a nearby province.

Ten million people live in the Commonwealth country, most of them in abject poverty – despite rich deposits of raw materials such as oil, gas and gold.

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